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August 13

FOCUS:    Let the children come to me.

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Reflection

00:00 / 02:09

The first reading for today comes from Ezekiel, a 6 – 7th century BC prophet who began prophesying in the final years of the Kingdom of Judah before the Babylonian conquest, destruction of Jerusalem, including the Temple and subsequent waves of deportations. Ezekiel was taken with the first wave of exiles to Babylonian captivity.

 

Ezekiel cites a proverb which warns that the sins of the father (and grandfather) are visited on the children. He assures the Jews that in spite of their current condition of exile and enslavement that this is not the case. Those who live in sin will suffer the consequences and those who live righteous lives will reap the reward. Moreover, those who turn away from their crimes against God will be forgiven. We are personally responsible for the good and the evil we do. “Return (to God) and live!”

 

In today’s well known Gospel passage from Matthew, children are brought to Jesus. By whom? Traditionally, children would present themselves to their fathers and students to their teachers to receive a blessing, and to be remembered in their prayers. The laying on of hands was seen as an act of faith expressing the sacred character of that gesture. This incident is repeated in Luke 18:16, where the original Greek used is brophos, meaning infant or small baby. Jesus blesses the children as legitimate members of the Kingdom, laying the foundation for infant baptism.